The Playoff Format is Fine

There has been a vocal group of people who say that the playoff format is not far. Whether it’s fans or pundits or some players, people aren’t fond of playing teams in their division.

Not shockingly, it’s because the Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, would have to presumably take on both the Lightning and the Bruins– the other two top teams in the East, and Toronto fans and pundits by and large and whiny personalities when they don’t get their way because they feel it’s their birthright to have everything handed to them.

The format the way it is now– to play out of your division before getting to the Conference Finals– is PERFECTLY FINE. If you have a division that’s tough– sobeit. If you have a division that’s weak– that’s fine, too. There’s no reason that it should change because fans wanted more rivalries in their hockey and now that they have it– they don’t want it anymore.

Back when people in Toronto pundits knew about hockey outside of their postal code, there was some kind of pride of winning the division you played in. That your team was the top in a division and you got to lord that over your divisional rivals the entire next season. For some reason, now it’s about having the easiest path to the Conference Finals and potentially the Stanley Cup.

Part of that, I have to say, is the Southeast Division’s craptasticness and their sullying of the divisional title crowns, while not having another team in that division being int he playoffs. That’s what happens when a league feels there needs to be symmetry across the divisions having an equal amount of teams.

There is no playoff system that people will universally agree on. Personally, this system works great in my opinion– especially with the NHL’s push for their national TV broadcast being based around rivalries…kind of. The point is that all the buzzwords come out in the playoffs– grit, desire, passion, hard work– and it seems that they are true…to a point, when you have to face adversity in the first round.

Only redeeming quality is there’s a build-in excuse for some if they go out early– they had to play teams that were too hard to play against. I’m sure that’s something that will fly with a fan base.

Time is Now for Lightning to Strike

Let’s talk about the Tampa Bay Lightning, shall we?? It’s hard not to considering they are the top team in the NHL by a landslide. They have Nikita Kucherov– who is shattering team records with a vengeance, as well as Brayden Point, who is probably the most slept on scorer in the NHL because Kucherov and Steven Stamkos are on the team. Plus, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been sturdy in net and really hasn’t complained about being tired yet– a far cry from last season.

This is all after former GM and noted waitress stealer Steve Yzerman left the team days before training camp begun.

In fact, this is a team that reminds me of a team Steve Yzerman played for…well, the only team he played for, but of an era. This team seems a bit like the mid-to-late-90s Detroit Red Wings. While they didn’t have the big star power that those teams had, but they have the ability to win, multiple 30-plus goal scorers, and solid defense in Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh.

Plus, the Lighting only need 10 more wins in their next 13 games to match the 1995-96 Red Wings for most wins by a team in a season. Sure, you could bitch about the new overtime rules and shootout skewing the win number, but shut up. Sixty-two wins is 62 wins.

We all know that their sheer bulk of goals probably will dwindle in the playoffs since the second-season is all about that defense– as you could tell by this team last year who only had 50 goals in 17 games of the playoffs (2.94 GPG) after having 294 in the regular season (3.58 GPG).

That said, I’m sure there’s still a bitter taste in their mouth from last year– losing games six and seven of the conference finals and not scoring a single goal in those 120 minutes of regulation. Plus, it’s the second time in three seasons they lost in seven games in a conference finals and are four playoffs removed from losing in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks, ending their dynasty.

You can almost assume the talk of Steven Stamkos’ “legacy” will be talked about if this team doesn’t win the Cup– almost like how Yzerman had that dogging him until he won his first Cup in 1997, which was two seasons removed from his first Cup Final– a loss to the Devils.

With the tear the Kucherov is on, the goals that Point has produced, and probably the sheer will and determination of Stamkos to nip the playoff demons in the bud– the offense will be more apt to find a way to keep their torrid pace going in the playoffs. Assuming Vasilevskiy gets a rest in the last weeks of the season, they could very well be running roughshod over the Eastern Conference.

That all being said, the last time a Presidents’ Trophy winner won the Stanley Cup was the shortened season of 2012-13 when the Blackhawks did it against Boston. Prior to that, the Red Wings won both in 2007-08. Of the last five Presidents’ Trophy winners, only one has made it past the second round and none have made it to the Cup Final. The team the Bolts may or may not be chasing for the wins and points record– the 1995-96 Red Wings– lost in the Conference Final.

If the Bolts are going to get their franchise’s second Stanley Cup, this is the prime time to do so with a team as stacked as they’ve shown all season.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Photo via GoMustangSports.com

This week on Chesapeake Hockey Week, I mentioned that the Stevenson University Mustangs Women’s team will be using their Saturday game against Neumann University as their Mental Health Awareness game. All the processes from the attendance goes toward the National Alliance of Mental Illness or NAMI for short. The game will have raffles, silent auctions, and a meet-and-greet with the players after the game.

So, let’s talk about mental health because the stigma is still strong and as many Bell Let’s Talk campaigns and as many HASHTAG Sick Not Weak things go around– there’s still things about mental health some people are not putting out there– rightly or wrongly.

I am someone who suffers from mental health issues. I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and a form of Bipolar Disorder. It is rough to live every day of my life in a “normal” manner, but that’s part of the high functioning part of this disease– you deal with it when it hits you, but even then– you shrug it off until it consumes you.

For all the things going around, for all the people who support the mental health initiative when it comes around, there still is a stigma to it. Whether it be people who think they are just stronger than the disease or people who don’t want to burden other with what’s going it– the epidemic is real and needs to be addressed in a strong fashion. The stigma around mental health is something that, while there is support for it, is also one of the most taboo things to talk about.

According to NAMI, 43.8 million adults suffer from mental health issues. In that, 9.8 million people suffer from a serious mental health issue that interferes with the life they live. Even with all of this data, people seem to push it by the wayside purposely or not. This effects work life and social life due to the crippling effects it create in people.

Yet, even after all this…it seems like something people deal with for a day or two and then it falls by the wayside, rightly or wrongly.

In hockey, there is a bigger situation. Obviously the story of Robin Lehner that’s going on is something that is huge. An active player with struggles of mental health that lead to alcohol and drug abuse, as well as suicidal thoughts. Patrik Berglund is another higher profile player who walked away from the NHL because of his mental state, mostly because he lost the drive he once had for the game he loved. With the losses of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak— the NHL has seemed to turn their tone on mental health awareness; but is it enough??

Yes, in the last link dump– I put my old work in there (ESPECIALLY THE RYPIEN PIECE), but it still holds true today. The fact we still have to have these talks is enough to realize– shit’s fucked up. We aren’t getting the mental health we deserve, whether it be because of pride or because of fear or because of any excuse you can think of. The reality of the situation is that if you’re not feeling great mentally, it shouldn’t be any different than if you’re feeling poor physically.

Look, if you’re feeling poor mentally– you’re pain is valid. There’s no reason why you should feel remorse or regret for not being able to perform mentally. While people shouldn’t abuse it– there are still people who do, which makes it harder to break a stigma because it’s hard to judge the reality of hurt and the need to get out of work. It’s not like a broken or sprained limb– it’s something deeper and more neurological than that.

Will there ever be a situation where the stigma is gone?? Maybe not, but you can keep pushing. There be a feeling of burden, there may be a feeling of vulnerability– but it’s okay. No one can be strong all the time. It’s not possible and if you think it is, maybe take a step back and see if you’re true in your convictions or if you’re saying/doing it because you’ve been told to be like that.

Forty-three point eight MILLION is a hard number to dispute against. It’s a hard number to hide. And odds are it’s higher just because of people who don’t feel like taking about what they’re going through or admitting their mental state matters. It does. It’s the starting block to all of your health. If your brain isn’t great, the odds that your body isn’t great are much higher.

In 1952’s “Viva Zapata,” the character Fernando said, “Cut the head off the snake and the body will die.” I feel that’s a correct quote when it comes to mental health because once your head is in a whirlwind, it affects other aspects of your bodily health. Many forget how vital mental health is to everyday life. The brain can play tricks on you and could lead you to rash decisions or comments– trust me, I know.

At the end of the day– when I say, “Take care of yourself and someone else,” it really is a way of life. Make sure you put yourself first– it’s not selfish, it’s preservation. And you hate to do it alone– so take care of someone else who you can trust and you hope can trust you.

Personally, my life in my head sucks and is very self-destructive to me. That’s why I’m re-entering therapy because it’s affecting my career, my relationships with people, and I still don’t know what direction to go in my life. You’d think by this time, nearing 36-years-old, I would– but I don’t…and that’s okay. Regardless of our age or experience, we need a little help. It’s hard to ask for it because you don’t want to be a burden, but it’s good to get another perspective on things since a lot of people are very set in our ways.

But here’s the Stevenson University Women’s hockey team for doing an event like this and hopefully, people will go out to the event in Reisterstown, Maryland on February 9th and donate to a noble and worthy cause.

On the Topic Of All-Star Weekend

It’s a thing in every sport and yet it shouldn’t be and that’s an All-Star Game. With media being more prominent now, the idea of the All-Star Game when it was used to see all the stars of a league in one place seems archaic– but yet it goes on. I’ve long been an advocate to make it into more of a three-day Comic-Con– or extended FanFest as it were– but it seems that these leagues feel that the action on the surface will hold people’s attention.

So it went in San Jose, as the Metro Division won the whole tournament 10-5 over the Central. It was what it was– though it was quite the juxtaposition of color. The black-and-white Adidas Parlay jerseys made it feel like an old-time game, while the gradient colored blue line coupled with goalie’s set-ups being much brighter than the jerseys made it feel like these were extra scenes from “Sin City” or “Pleasantville.”

More over, the NHL’s new toy– player and puck tracking— was on full display, making us reminisce about the FoxTrax puck. Obviously, this new toy will be exploited to the cows come home and in no way has to do with the NHL’s deal with bookmakers and the prop bets that will come from it– nope, not at all. That said, NBC and NBCSN really abused it for those two days– maybe to get used to it, maybe to show us what we’re all in store for next season. Either way, too much of a good thing ruins it.

No one got hurt, which was really the most important thing. It seemed the guys had fun and won’t have to serve a game suspension because they missed out on the events. San Jose put on a good showing and all of that, so it’ll be a success.

Though the buzz of the weekend was the Skills Competition and some for the right and some for the wrong reason. The right reason was the inclusion of Kendell Coyne-Schofield to the Fastest Skater event and she did not disappoint with her talent despite not winning the event. For the bad also involved a woman competitor and a bit of a boggle by the NHL.

The Decker situation was when she was demonstrating the Premier Passing drill and many accounted for her finishing in a faster time than eventual winner Leon Draisaitl, though the NHL said her time was in fact around 1:12 (three second short of Draisaitl); as the league went back and checked. Saying they would “do the right thing” if she won was nice– but try explaining that to people who raise hell whenever possible. Luckily for Decker, CCM stepped up and added that $25,000 to her pocket.

When you break it down– this is where the NHL needs to figure out what to do with women’s hockey. Why not include Decker like they did with Coyne-Schofield?? What does it hurt to put the women in the men’s competition and allow them to stack up against the top players in the NHL?? This is where you have the conundrum of the two women’s pro leagues and the NHL stating they won’t favor one over the other. If/when the NWHL and CWHL merge or one becomes obsolete– it won’t only be better for women’s hockey, but it’ll be better for the NHL because you can bet they’ll start financially backing a one-league system as an off-shoot of the NHL and the women’s league will reap the benefit of the NHL marketing team…which isn’t the best, but maybe better than what they have.

Other than that– the Skills Competition seemed to lack things. The Hardest Shot had four players, which seemed pretty lame and looks to be going the way of the NBA Dunk Contest, while there was not much pizzazz with the other events other than skill being isolated for the world to see. Maybe the gimmicks are just done for now.

Either way, this debate will happen again next year with the game going to St. Louis. Love it or hate it, the idea of it continues to generate revenue, so leagues love it. Players and teams….maybe not as much, but they’ll play the company line or sit a game in rebellion.

TEPID TAKE(S): Garbage Jerseys, Shrinking Ice, Flyers Goalies

Adidas unveiled the All-Star Game jerseys, which are garbage. Legit garbage. The jersey makers have partnered again with Parley for Oceans to make jerseys out of plastic debris out of the oceans. It has been done before with MLS and now will come to the NHL All-Star Game in San Jose.

When comparing to past ASG jerseys, they’re underwhelming, of course, because they’re not flashy. From what JonnyP has told me, it has to be that way due to the thread used to keep it all together. Fair enough and in all honesty, it’s the All-Star Game and while specialty jerseys are suppose to have some kind of flash to them, this is a good cause. Plus, on the broadcast, it’ll give an old-time feel of black-and-white TV.

More over, it’s a nice nod to the MLB jerseys where players wear their own teams logo on it. While the jersey itself isn’t the template specific, the fact that it’ll be more than just a shoulder patch logo is pretty damn cool. You can’t buy just a generic jersey and slap together whatever you want– you need to know what team you want before you buy it– so that’s something.


Rene Fasel was talking about things again. This time, the IIHF President for Life was talking about how the federation is looking into shifting the sizes of rinks for international competition away from the set-up of 200-feet by 100-feet to the NHL standard of 200-by-85, which is in no way an attempt to get the NHL back into the Beijing Olympics in 2022.

No, Fasel said that it would be more for the fans and help bring more excitement and emotion thanks to smaller confines…and in no way to squeeze another row of seats into the arena.

Listen, unless the other European federations are going to shrink their rinks and the leagues around the world are going to put up with this whole thing, this just seems like a silly idea. Sure, the European fans have a total different look as the NHL/North American fans– but the fun with Olympics and World Championships is the bigger ice surface to have more space and have skill and actual systems come through.

I’m not fully convinced it’s to appease the NHL and their overlords because the fact the World Juniors is played on NHL-size ice every three of four years and then a random European rink is a little annoying– but don’t change the systems wholly because of one Olympics that the NHL didn’t want to go to because of reasons (money).


Mike McKenna won’t be the last different goalie to start for the Philadelphia Flyers. Thanks to his start in Washington on Tuesday, McKenna helped the Flyers tie the record for most starting goalies used in a season (Quebec in 1989-90, 2002-03 St. Louis Blues, and 2007-08 LA Kings) as the sixth different starter in a season.

We’re only midway through the season, there’s plenty of more goalies to go through, and the Flyers still have the trade deadline, waiver wires, and the inevitable injury that’ll happen to Carter Hart or McKenna to look forward to.

The Flyers are 13th out of 16 teams in the Eastern Conference, while they’re last in the league in goal differential with a minus-61. Are the goalies the biggest woe for the Flyers?? Maybe, but it proves that just removing the GM and head coach wasn’t the quick fix some thought it would be. Might it hamper Hart’s development?? Perhaps– especially since the Flyers haven’t been able to bring along a homegrown goalie since Ron Hextall back in the ’80s.

On Face Off Hockey Show, we put the over/under at 8.5 for goalies who have started for the Flyers this season. You have to think that maybe some minor league goalie gets pluck off of waivers by the Flyers or Branden Komm gets a call-up late in the season because the hell with it. For me, I’m taking the over all day, everyday.

My Wishes for the Battle of Atlanta in Regina

We all know this won’t happen. The NHL won’t let this happen. The Winnipeg Jets won’t let this happen. But I want the #BattleOfAtlanta to go down in a big, big was in October for the Heritage Classic game in Regina between the Flames and Jets.

Both teams are formerly of Atlanta. The real issue stems with one team actually caring about their heritage, whereas the other wants to think this is a Cleveland Browns situations– in that they keep the records of the team that relocated.

Word to the wise– the Winnipeg Jets are the Atlanta Thrashers and hold all the Atlanta Thrashers records. The franchise leader in points for the Winnipeg Jets is Ilya Kovalchuk with 615 points. Dany Heatley holds the record for goals and points by a rookie. These are Winnipeg Jets legends by proxy. Dale Hawerchuk, Bob Essensa, Teemu Selanne– all those records belong to the Arizona Coyotes. Even dumb, idiot, blowhard bloggers from six years ago say the Jets are the Thrashers.

Okay– with that all out of the way: the only way to play this is to have the Flames wear the classic Atlanta Flames jerseys. They already have the template with their third jerseys and with this game being about Heritage…it only makes sense. Like I said before, the Flames incorporated their Atlanta roots many times, including putting the old logo as an alternate captain letter.

Powder blue is something that the Jets should wear as the Thrashers– it would help that color clash people enjoy. Plus, they already incorporate that in their alternate jerseys now– which is a nice step for them bringing back the Thrashers garb for one night only.

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Musical act is Lil’ Jon– point blank period. Not because he’s an Atlanta guy, but it’s because he’s someone who has held the torch for Atlanta hockey since the Flames played at the Omni. He was a great ambassador for the Thrashers and really help bring more pop culture into the game when it was looking for it. So much impact that Kari Lehtonen put him on the back of his mask.

So it’s set– this is what it should be, especially if we’re talking about a HERITAGE CLASSIC. Before you get where you’re going, you’ve gotta know where you’ve been. That’s what it’s all about– knowing both teams came from Atlanta to Canada in different generations. Time to mesh them.

And honestly– to the people who might be butt-hurt over this (probably Jets fans who are defensive of their identity and want to believe 1996-2011 didn’t happen); if you liked the Hurricanes becoming the Whalers for one night– why can’t you enjoy the Jets becoming the Thrashers for one night?? It’s all in the name of fun, right?? All the nostalgia is great right??

You might not like it, but I’m sure there’s a lot more people who would. It’s the history of the team and regardless of what you try– it’s not going away. Preserve history rather than put it under the rug and then you can enjoy things rather than being overly uptight.

#BattleOfAtlanta

Battle of Atlanta Kicks Off Specialty Games for 2019-20

In light of another Chicago Blackhawks outdoor game, the NHL revealed locations for some of their specialty games coming up for the 2019-20 season.

First, the Heritage Classic will come back and take place in Regina, Saskatchewan on October 26. In what I’ll be calling “The Battle of Atlanta” the former Atlanta Flames will take on the former Atlanta Thrashers– with the Calgary Flames taking on the Winnipeg Jets. It’ll be the fifth Heritage Classic and first since 2016 in Winnipeg. With both teams on the rise in their divisions, it should prove to be an interesting match-up, especially early in the season.

Second, the NHL put forth next year’s Winter Classic, but this time in Dallas’s Cotton Bowl, as the Dallas Stars will host and unnamed opponent– which, if it’s not the Minnesota Wild, it’ll be a huge narrative disrupting event. Surprising that it’s not being held in JerryWorld at AT&T Stadium, as it would go with the NHL wanting a big venue for these events.

St. Louis will be the 2020 All-Star Game host for the third time (1970 and 1988 being the prior ones) through the weekend of January 24th until the 26th. We’ll be waiting with bated-breathe to see if Nelly and the St. Lunatics show up with Fred Brathwaite like they did in the “Welcome to Atlanta” remix.

Finally, the NHL also announced another Stadium Series game at a military academy, with the Colorado Avalanche hosting a game at the Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium. Another game with no opponent, but hopefully the NHL will keep getting closer and closer to their goal of holding a game at West Point after going through two other military academies already.

Is there one better than the other?? Do you even care about the amount of outdoor games anymore?? Leave a comment or something to let me know….or don’t, I get paid the same either way.

On the Topic Of Utica, Vancouver, and Affiliation Distance

When the westward move of the AHL began and many of the Western Conference teams started to move their affiliations, people thought it was a matter of time before the Vancouver Canucks moved their affiliation out of Utica, New York for a closer destination.

Saturday’s announcement put a damper on that idea, at least until the 2020-21 season. That’s because the Canucks and Comets agreed to a new six-year affiliation extension; though it has an option for the Canucks after two seasons to depart upstate New York for somewhere else.

Business wise, Utica is great with president Robert Esche having built a great entertainment outlet. They’re in the midst of a 133-game sellout streak that started in April 2015, while they have been producing plenty of talent of the retooling Canucks– including head coach Travis Green. On the ice, it’s been solid as well with a 193-136-35-16, though the team only has two playoff appearances in the five full seasons the two teams have been affiliated. The Comets haven’t had a season under 35 wins, either.

Obviously, the distance between Utica and Vancouver is something that should be a worry when it comes to call-ups. However, does moving a team closer to the Canucks, namely the Fraser Valley region of British Columbia, make sense when the AHL has tried and failed once before?? Of course, you can say the shortcomings of the Abbotsford Heat was the Calgary Flames being in Canucks territory– but would people actually be enthused to have AHL hockey when the NHL team is maybe an hour away??

Hockey fans can be fickle, so maybe seeing the future of the team may not be as good as seeing the team itself. Plus, when you’re the Canucks and own the Comets (leasing it to Esche and Utica), the fact that money and loyalty keeps rolling in up in Utica, you don’t want to kill that golden goose when it’s making profit. Plus, maybe keeping the young players away from the cutthroat media and possible extreme expectations that would come with being closer to the Canucks may be best for development of some players to be able to learn the system first before having it dissected by everyone in the Vancouver area.

It’s always a struggle when it comes to situations like this. You don’t want to move an affiliation when it’s working so well on the business and hockey side of things, but you also don’t want to have your prospects so far away in a place that’s not a major airline hub that it cuts into the roster of the NHL team. The Canucks have a delicate balancing act they’re doing, but as of right now– they seem to be winning out thus far with the marriage they have in Utica.

TEPID TAKE: The Seattle 32nds

The worst kept secret was made official Tuesday, as Seattle was named the 32nd team in the NHL by a unanimous decision. The team will start playing in 2021…labor strife permitting. It was a happening of necessity of getting more of a footprint in the Pacific Northwest, while creating a nice little “rivalry” already with Vancouver, as well as making sure that all the divisions are equal. 

Plus, the price tag of $650M doesn’t hurt either, I’m sure.

However, good on the city of Seattle. They’ve been one of the most vocal group of supporters for wanting a hockey team, it was almost Canadian of them. Of course, with the success of the Vegas Golden Knights, there’s plenty to be excited about because the talent pool could be even better and it could give them an even better start than Vegas…but let’s not put the cart before the horse. 

Of course, with all of this– it shifts the landscape a bit. As mentioned, Seattle will go into the Pacific Division, which will shift the Arizona Coyotes to the Central Division. Obviously, this has sparked the kind of tongue-in-cheek idea of the Coyotes now moving to Houston and not having to switch divisions– but if they’ve survived this long in the desert, they can survive a divisional move and another round of rumors. 

More over, it may make people question the future of the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. They play in Kent, which is about 20 miles from Seattle, but will they be able to keep the fan base they have with this new hockey team in town or could this move signal a possible swan song for the team. Sure, other markets in the WHL have NHL teams with them– Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and soon Winnipeg– but Canadian markets when it comes to hockey vastly differ when it comes to US markets. I would love to see it work as a natural pipeline, but I have my doubts. 

That all said, it’s good for the NHL to have a presence like this in the location they do. They go to a city that doesn’t have another winter sport presence on a daily basis (NFL aside, of course), they go to a play that is hungry for it, and they go to a place where there is history– like when the PCHA’s Seattle Metropolitans were the first US-based team to win the Stanley Cup. With the right management in place, they could get back there sooner than later once this team gets off the ground. 

Add Sabres To List of Youth Movement in Full Force

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For a team who hasn’t had a winning season since 2011-12, the Buffalo Sabres are doing all they can to get out in front of that this season. After Tuesday’s win, which got them their 10th straight victory (a franchise record), it’s hard to fathom how this is happening after a 21-win season from last year. They already have 17 wins and we’re just about to enter December.

I’ll also say– yes, there have been teams who won 10-straight that went on to lose 10-straight…hi Flyers…and who’s to say it won’t happen to this rag-tag bunch of kids??

That aside, the Sabres are just another team– akin to the Hurricanes and last year’s Golden Knights– who are just fun to watch because there was little to no expectation of them at the start of the season. Quietly, Jack Eichel is having a solid year with 23 assists and 28 points, Jeff Skinner is tied for the league lead in goals, while Carter Hutton has seemingly shed his back-up role and become a serviceable starter for this team. This is not to mention the Rasmuses (Rasmuii??)– Ristolainen and Dahlin– have been fantastic from the blueline, though the former may want to play a little better in his own end. Kyle Okposo, Jason Pominville, Sam Reinhart– all key cogs on this roster getting it down.

If you’re into the numbers side of things, Travis Yost has something at the Buffalo News that would give you more insight into that.

While this is a shift in some power, perhaps, in the Atlantic– that’s always good to keep things balanced. I hate to use “parity,” as it seems like a simple excuse to give, but it’ll keep team in check when it comes to who they sign and for how long/much they sign them for. The biggest thing going forward is Jeff Skinner’s extension– which could be very hefty if his pace continues. The biggest thing that the Sabres do hold is three first-round picks in the 2019 Draft. That’s something they could use in order to help unload some money…like a sweetener to maybe take Okposo’s contract.

Regardless of that, whatever Phil Housley has done has worked wonders in year two of his tenure. He’s found out how to coach the team that Jason Botterill has given him, and maybe the move to get Skinner is the last piece they really needed. The key is to not disrupt things by making an ill-advised move and ruining the dynamic in the locker room. While big name free-agents could be out there and may want to come to Buffalo with their resurgence– but having the chemistry they’re having now is pretty solid and something you wouldn’t want to mess up or else they’ll be back to where they were before this season.